Monthly Archives: January 2013

When he had found him

lindegaard-l-aveugle-de-naissance1Jesus heard that they had driven [the man born blind] out, and when he had found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38)

For me, these verses have long been an interpretive key for the Gospel of John, but I noticed something new today.

What has always impressed me is Jesus’ action here: “When he had found him.” Jesus actively finds the man in order to complete his healing and overcome his estrangement. This is a truth of the Gospel that applies to us today. Jesus actively desires that we be whole and reconciled, and his Spirit is working to find us wherever we may have gotten to.

Another element to this story struck me today, though.

John’s Gospel, according to most scholars, was written for a community of Jewish Christians who had recently been thrown out of the synagogues they had belonged to.

Like the man born blind, they had “seen the light” of Christ, but their religious community could not see that something new was happening. As Judaism sought to distance itself and differentiate itself from the growing Christian movement, followers of Jesus were expelled from the synagogues. They were probably feeling the same sense of estrangement, loss, and grief as the man in the story, wondering where they could go now.

Jesus actively found those early Christians, too. We are even today members of the reconciled community formed by Jesus’ active desire. Where we feel estranged, where we feel loss and grief, where familiar religious structures are changing, Jesus is there to find us.

“You have seen me,” Jesus says to us. “And the one speaking to you is me.”

Remember! Wake up!

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” (Isaiah 65:1-5)

Today is one of those days when the readings and canticles pair up together beautifully to form an extended image and commentary.

We begin with God’s lament in Isaiah — the people do not seek him, though he says “Here I am.” They are rebellious, and they have forgotten their own identity as God’s chosen.

The first canticle appointed for this morning is Canticle 8 – The Song of Moses. In it, we remember our identity as the people saved by God and recount the story of the Exodus. “I will sing to the Lord, for he is lofty and uplifted; the horse and its rider has he hurled into the sea” (BCP 85).

We then read the Son of Man’s words to the church in Sardis from the Revelation to John: “Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you” (Rev. 3:3).

And then the second canticle appointed for today: Canticle 20. “Glory to God in the highest,” we say, “and peace to his people on earth.” Awakened, we raise our voices in praise.

As God’s people, we are saved, but forget that we are a chosen people. We are redeemed, but do not live like anything has changed.

“Remember!” says God. “Wake up!” says the Son of Man.

The Collect for Guidance, commonly used on Thursday mornings, is an excellent way to begin again — to remember and to wake up:

“Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (BCP 100).

P.S. Having just returned from San Francisco, however, where the cioppino with Dungeness crab is simply marvelous, I will say that I have no intention of repenting from my love of the “broth of abominable things in my vessel.” Just sayin’.

cioppino

Let us go to the house of the Lord

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I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
(Psalm 122:1-2)

Last night at dinner, I had a pleasant conversation with a colleague about prayer, Bible reading, churches that have impressed us, and finding a place at home to pray and read.

Back at the hotel, I am thinking this morning about the places where we pray.

The photo above is my most regular place of prayer: the desk in whatever hotel room I happen to find myself. It has the great benefit of being completely quiet, and I can arrange the space any way I want. It’s pretty easy to shut out distractions for a short while each morning as I pray and write.

My colleague joked that when he told his wife he wanted a place of his own at home to read, she just laughed. With her and five girls (and a dog) in the house, he’d be lucky for a few minutes of peace and quiet, and no chair is truly his own for long.

Several parishioners from my church recently traveled to Israel, and their feet actually stood within the gates of Jerusalem. They all reported how seeing and standing in the physical places of the Bible affected them.

Most of us, however, have to build “the house of the Lord” a little closer to home.

How have you created space for prayer in your own home? What still needs to be attended to so that you will find “peace within your walls” and “quietness within your towers”?

Non nobis, Domine

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to your Name give glory;
because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

Why should the heathen say,
“Where then is their God?”

Our God is in heaven;
whatever he wills to do he does.
(Psalm 115:1-3)

In his first “sign” at the wedding in Cana, Jesus deflects attention away from himself.

First, it’s a son’s normal reaction because his mom is pressuring him to do something: “What is it to you? My time has not yet come.” And even when Jesus does “whatever he wills to do” and changes the water into wine, the steward doesn’t know who did it, so he gives praise instead to the bridegroom for saving the best wine for last.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory.

In Jesus, John and the other Gospel writers see the glory of God revealed, “the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Though Jesus does point to himself in the signs, especially those that follow this first one, what he’s really doing is pointing to God. “No one has ever seen God,” writes John. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18).

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory.

We’re meant to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as his Body here on earth, sharing his forgiveness and healing power with those around us, and making known God’s love and faithfulness.

Morning and evening (at least) we’re also meant to give “Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever” (BCP 102, 126).

Joy and peace to all

For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
shall remain before me, says the Lord;
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon
and from sabbath to sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22-23)

One of the Principal Feasts of the church year, the Epiphany celebrates the “Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles,” as our Prayer Book calendar calls it (BCP 31). The wise men stand in for the whole Gentile world (that is, all of us) as they see and recognize in the child Jesus the promised salvation of the world.

Listen to one of the prayers for mission that we commonly use at Evening Prayer:

“O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 124)

Christ’s coming is for all, not just for the Jews, not just for the Orthodox or the Catholics, not just for the Lutherans or the Presbyterians or the Calvinists, not just for the Anglicans or the “real” Anglicans, not just for my parish or for yours, but for all.

Our religious tendency toward exclusivity does not serve God’s purpose of bringing light to all — to the whole earth, all nations, all tongues, men and women everywhere.

In the readings appointed for this Eve of the Epiphany, Isaiah points toward that future day when all flesh will worship God together, and Paul prays on behalf of the Romans (Gentiles like us): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP 126).

“All joy and peace.” Joy and peace to all. That’s a fitting note on which to begin our worship this Epiphany.

Crossing over and abiding

Icon of Joshua by St. Isaac of Syria Skete

Icon of Joshua by St. Isaac of Syria Skete

Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors to give them …. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6,9)

In this morning’s Old Testament lesson, Joshua is preparing to lead the people of Israel across the River Jordan into the Promised Land. God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” and reassures him that he will be with him.

Similarly, in the Gospel reading appointed for today, Jesus is speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper as he prepares to “cross over” through his death on the cross.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” Jesus says; “abide in my love” (John 15:9). Jesus reassures the disciples in much the same way as God had reassured Joshua.

We, too, can receive God’s reassurance and a sense of his abiding presence in our lives — by doing just what Joshua and the disciples did.

God says to Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it” (Joshua 1:8).

“This is my commandment,” says Jesus to the disciples, “that you love one another as I have loved you … I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:12,15). We read in the book of Acts that the disciples did just what Jesus told them to.

Their abiding love, their joy at having “crossed over” with Jesus into new life, was visible to the Roman society in which the church began to grow. Tertullian (c. 200 AD) wrote about Roman society and how they saw the early Christians: “‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other)” (Apology 39.7).

Cross over (with God’s help) into the new life Christ has pioneered, and abide in friendship with him.

A tithe of your time

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.” (Gen. 28:20-22)

Earlier this week, I got into a conversation with a blogger named David Rosendahl regarding how we spend our time. He had done a time study and was reflecting on how little time it seemed he was devoting to “spiritual” things in relation to his work.

I commented that it actually seemed like he was tithing his time — that is, his study reveals that he spends about 10% as much time on spiritual things as he does on work. I also suggested that it’s important to consider whether the time you tithe is “first fruits,” time deliberately set aside for God rather than an afterthought.

In my case, I am typically awake for at least 12 hours each day, so a tithe of my time would be one hour and 20 minutes. Saying Morning Prayer and writing these reflections usually takes about an hour each morning; perhaps I still need to stretch a little and more regularly devote 20 minutes each day for Evening Prayer.

What might it look like for you to tithe your time? If you already do, how might you need to make sure you are giving of your “first fruits” to God?